Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed a man to the most powerful position in Broward County without knowing he had failed to disclose a juvenile arrest on a murder charge and his use of the the hallucinogen LSD.
In 2004, Gregory Tony's hiring was rejected by Tallahassee police after he admitted using LSD when he was 16, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Wednesday.
But when Tony applied in 2005 to Coral Springs, he denied handling or using hallucinogens, such as LSD.
The disclosure comes weeks after the Florida Bulldog revealed Tony had been arrested and charged with murder in Philadelphia when he was 14. He was found not guilty after claiming self-defense.
He did not disclose that history in his Coral Springs application either, even though it explicitly asked in a section that included "juvenile record" if he'd ever been arrested, charged or even detained as a suspect -- which he clearly was.
DeSantis appointed Tony sheriff of a department with 2,800 deputies and half-billion-dollar budget three days after he took office, based largely on the recommendation of a parent of a Parkland massacre victim, who went to the same gym as Tony and wanted Sheriff Scott Israel removed from office.
DeSantis obliged without doing a thorough background check that, had it been comprehensive, would have discovered what journalists are now finding in police department files, including one sitting just blocks away from the capitol where DeSantis was sworn in earlier that week.
NBC 6 asked Tony's campaign why he did not tell the truth on his police application. We received a statement that did not address that question.
"I am focused on my job as sheriff, and about what I can do to make Broward County safer -- not about things I did in my teenage years or from 20 years ago," Tony's statement read. "Because I've made a priority of cracking down on excessive force and bringing accountability back to the agency, my disgruntled political opponents are trying to dredge up incidents from my past to stop me, so that they can be held less accountable and return to business as usual."
Israel is seeking a return to the sheriff's post, facing Tony, former BSO commander Al Pollock and others in the Aug. 18 Democratic primary, which often produces the ultimate winner in the countywide race.
"The unfortunate part for Broward County residents is this race is going to be all about scandals," said NBC 6 political analyst Carlos Curbelo. He noted Israel's handling of the Parkland shooting is also controversial.
"But certainly troubles for Sheriff Tony are deepening," said Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from Miami. "He is losing credibility, although we're in a whole new world where scandals that typically would have buried candidates are these days just bumps in the road."
For his part, DeSantis reacted to news that he appointed a man who, as a juvenile, had killed a man in what he said was self defense, by saying, "It's not like he's my sheriff. I didn't know the guy."
The governor said the prior case "did not come up in the background check because he had never been charged."
That appears to be a false statement by the governor.
The Philadelphia police record, and news accounts at the time, say Tony was charged with murder and other charges and arrested.
Juvenile records, even those sealed and expunged, are available to police agencies in Florida when they are checking the background of a job applicant.